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Steve English

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The Suzuka 8-Hours is around the corner. Testing is already underway for some of the leading riders, and it will only ramp up in the coming weeks.

Flying back and forth to Japan isn’t easy for anyone, but it is what is needed if you will be able to challenge at the great Japanese race.

The past weeks saw a host of announcements for rider lineups, with some interesting developments for what we will see on the last weekend of July.

The 8-Hours is the biggest race on the calendar for the Japanese manufacturers, and still the race that has the biggest impact on a rider’s fortunes with them. Yamaha, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Honda have now all announced their top teams, but what does it mean?

Time ticks by quickly on the Mountain Course, but when there are delays at the Isle of Man TT, it drags on like nothing else.

Last year’s edition will be remembered for the sheer speed, with lap records falling in all classes, but this year will remembered for all the missed session. The less people think about 2019 Isle of Man TT, the better.

The weather gods didn’t play ball and one delay rolled into another. It was a miracle that a full slate of races was completed and Gary Thompson, the clerk of the course, should be commended for his foresight.

Lee Johnston claimed the first Isle of Man TT victory of his career in Monday's Supersport TT Race 1. Having won the class at the North West 200, the Northern Irishman was expected to be a contender on his Yamaha YZF-R6, but after finally breaking his duck, it was clear just how special this was for The General.

“I’m so emotional,” said Johnston afterwards. “This place is so weird, and I feel like I haven’t done anything different, but it just clicked. In one way it’s frustrating, but in another it’s amazing. I’m absolutely over the moon."

"I probably haven’t been the easiest person to live with because of all the stress, but this is what we do it for. It’s something I always wanted to do, and there’s one person [my dad] I wish was here to see that. He won’t be, but hopefully he’s looking down.”

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Bikes were finally back on track at the Isle of Man TT! A sigh of relief was heard around the island when the weather gods played ball for final practice before races get underway at TT 2019.

Last year’s Isle of TT was historic. The lap record was broken in every class and Peter Hickman became the first rider to smash through the 135mph barrier. It was a stunning TT, where riders enjoyed the fruits of an Indian Summer on the island.

With practice week in perfect conditions last year, they were able to get as many miles under their belts as they deemed enough to do. It was perfect. It was bliss. It was, unfortunately, too good to be true for 2019.

David “Davo” Johnson is back at the TT, and the Australian keeps learning and keeps improving. The Honda rider has spent ten years keeping a lid on expectations, and he’s now keen to put his lessons to good use

The Isle of Man TT is sink or swim. Some riders take to it like a duck to water, and others realize that it is just not for them.

It is the most unique race on the motorcycle calendar. It is you against the track. It is you against the clock. It is you against yourself.

For David Johnson though, this year is different. He is a factory Honda rider for the first time, and the Australian is doing all he can to make sure that he keeps the pressure to a minimum.

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There is nothing quite like the Isle of Man TT. It is the most spectacular race on the motorsport calendar. The Senior TT is the Superbowl and Indy 500 combined. It is a national holiday where the race track takes center stage.

It is also one of the most dangerous races in the world. For every rider that swings their leg over their bikes at the TT, they know the risks and they accept them.

But what is it that makes a rider willing to take those risks? The “buzz” is obviously high on the list but another factor for some is a simple basic fact of life; they need to work.

Last year he broke the lap record and claimed the Senior TT, and while Peter Hickman might start this year’s TT as the firm favorite for overall honors, the 32-year-old faces the end of his career unless he was willing to race on the roads.

The Isle of Man TT is 37.75 miles of asphalt through small villages and beautiful Manx countryside - the goal is to complete it in under 17 minutes, and at an average speed of over 135mph. Any mistake can be your last.

This is the most spectacular race track in the world. This is the Isle of Man TT Mountain Course.

Learning your way around the Isle of Man TT course is a mammoth task though. There is literally too much going on for your brain to comprehend it.

When riders talk about the course they piece together section by section. Where are the bumps? Where are the traffic lights? Where are the road signs? Where are the painted kerbs?

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The check boxes are getting ticked by the Ducati Panigale V4 R. WorldSBK race winner? Check! British Superbike race winner? Check! Road Racing winner? Not just yet.

The Ducati Panigale V4 R was designed and developed to dominate, and Gigi Dall’igna has said that the goal is to make the bike the most sought after Superbike in every paddock.

Last year the Italian spoke about how important it was to win the North West 200 because this was a race that Ducati had never won. Breaking new ground was important 12 months ago, and it’s even more important now.

The new bike is one that can, in theory, be a contender at the Suzuka 8 Hours, and finally give Ducati a reliable platform to compete at races such as that. The North West 200 is also a potential precursor to once again seeing Ducati on the roads of the Isle of Man.

This bike has the potential to be a real challenger, but it will take success this weekend to really show just how good the Panigale V4 R can become.

To find out what goes into making a bike into a contender on the roads Asphalt & Rubber talked with Paul Bird Motorsport to find out exactly what it takes.

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“I’ve had to pinch myself leaving Imola in the past." That's how Chaz Davies sums up his relationship with the Italian circuit and the Ducatisti in a few short words.

Winning four races in a row at an Italian circuit on an Italian bike will make for some great memories. Unfortunately for the Welshman, he hasn’t looked like adding to those memories this season.

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The Ducati Panigale V4 R is the newest bike on the Superbike block, and as you’d expect it is the most advanced bike on the WorldSBK grid. 

The Italian manufacturer has developed a tremendous package over the winter, to immediately vault to the top of the pile in the production based series, and with Alvaro Bautista having been undefeated in the opening two rounds of the championship, he has laid the foundations of a very strong title challenge.

This is a production based series, and Ducati has developed a so-called ‘homologation special.’ While the rest of the grid comprises of heavily developed machinery, the Ducati was developed as a no holds barred, pure bred racing machine.

This is a throwback to a bygone era when the likes of Honda would develop their Superbike machinery with the sole goal of winning the title.

No compromises are made with a homologation special. Other than costing a maximum of €40,000, there is very little that isn’t maximised on the machinery.

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There is no challenge like Buriram on the WorldSBK calendar. It is the hottest round of the year, and it places huge physical and mental demands on riders. With temperatures expected to be in the high 100°F’s, the sun and heat will sap the power from riders.

Leon Camier has described racing in those conditions as “brutal” in the past and he’s not wrong. To get an idea of what the riders will go through this weekend, try sitting in a sauna for 30 minutes and then imagine doing that while your heart is racing and you’re wearing leathers and a helmet.

Before travelling to Thailand, I tried to put myself into a rider’s frame of mind and the results were interesting to say the least. We’ve all heard that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. That’s a lie. I didn’t die, but I definitely wasn’t strong afterwards!

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